The U.S. Navy’s first-in-class joint high-speed vessel USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) left the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations, May 2, after more than three months of operating in the European and African theaters.
Since entering the theater in late January, Spearhead conducted maritime security operations in the Mediterranean, participated in multinational maritime exercises Saharan Express and Obangame Express, conducted a bi-lateral maritime law enforcement operation, and delivered more than 22.5 tons of humanitarian supplies under the U.S. Navy’s Project Handclasp program.
“I am extremely proud of the work Spearhead has achieved in theater, primarily for her efforts in supporting Africa Partnership Station and the pillars that program represents,” said Vice Adm. Phil Davidson, commander, U.S. 6th Fleet, who recently visited the ship during a port visit in Gabon. “I commend the Sailors and civilians who performed superbly over the course of their work here in U.S. 6th Fleet. They accomplished a wide range of mission sets and had a positive impact on maritime security.”
In addition to the Express series exercises, Spearhead conducted Africa Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership (AMLEP) with Ghana, patrolling Ghanaian waters with an embarked boarding team consisting of Ghanaian navy and marine police personnel, a Ghana fisheries agent, and members of a U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment. The combined boarding team boarded three vessels fishing illegally, and the fisheries agent recorded six infractions under Ghana fisheries regulations.
“Missions like AMLEP showed just how important those types of activities are to partnerships and maritime security,” said Capt. Marc Lederer, Africa Partnership Station mission commander embarked on Spearhead. “The civilian mariners and military detachment exemplified an outstanding synergy to execute this deployment. We acted as one team and integrated our African partners into that unity for each engagement.”
Spearhead also embarked a U.S. Marine Corps squad for a crisis response exercise off the coast of Liberia. The vessel hosted Liberian coast guardsmen for a shipboard familiarization visit while the Marine Corps personnel launched ashore.
Spearhead concluded her time in Africa with a port visit in Libreville, Gabon, where the civilian and military crew conducted a community service project to assist the country’s national art school. The ship also hosted a reception for Gabonese dignitaries.
Civil service mariners aboard Spearhead were glad to play a part achieving the multi-faceted missions while Spearhead was deployed to U.S. 6th Fleet.
“In my 25 years with MSC, this is the best group I’ve ever sailed with, CIVMAR and military,” said Capt. Doug Casavant, civil service master aboard Spearhead. “We have worked hard together, and we’re leaving a good legacy.”
After it leaves U.S. 6th Fleet, Spearhead will briefly return to its layberth at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Va., for a maintenance period before continuing its maiden deployment as scheduled to U.S. 4th Fleet.
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts a full range of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation missions in concert with coalition, joint, interagency, and other partners in order to advance security and stability in Europe and Africa.
Press Release, May 4, 2014; Image: US Navy